Spain, crisis and the difference between equality and parity

Article published on May 25, 2009
Article published on May 25, 2009
For the first time in the economic crisis, men are proportionally losing jobs faster than women are. Is it a victory for the latter? It’s a long road to equality – or should we say, to parity?

Women are determined to prove that they can be like men. But in doing so concealing a specifically feminine way of thinking in all aspects of life. In spite of women’s efforts, the results are very poor. Stamina and male chauvinism are much more subtle elements today, but they are more recalcitrant in the world of work. 

For example, after the death of the dictator Franco in 1975 in Spain, pressure from feminists led to the enactment of laws which were favourable towards women. These were guaranteed in the constitution of 1978. After years of struggle, the state finally listened to its women. Since March 2007, an organic law regarding ‘equality’ has focused on the promotion of equality between both men and women in the working environment in particular. It introduced a new word into the language - 'parity’ - in an attempt to consider the needs of women, the most important being motherhood. The implementation of many of these measures was ‘voluntary’. It is this word that shields the employer and does not enforce the law.


A new concept enters into play once the moral barrier of equality is overcome: parity is now seen from a less biological perspective. As acknowledged by the French philosopher Sylviane Agacinski, equality means the same rights for all and no legal discrimination against women. However, in reality equality cannot prevent discrimination happening. For example, a board of directors in a company might be composed of eight males and two women. In this situation one can say that there is equality - but not parity - as the decisions remain in the hands of a male majority. The scarce representation of women in senior positions is still very evident in large companies, where around 90% of the members of major European companies are male. 

The ongoing wage gap

Equal pay for equal work was one of the founding principles of the European Union. It was mentioned in the treaty of Rome of 1957 and was subject to legislation in 1975 which prohibited all wage discrimination between men and women. This principle has become the focus of the ‘international woman’s day’ campaign (held every 8 March), after finding that despite the offensive which has been in place for many years, in Europe, women earn 17.4% less than men for doing the same job .

According to the 2009 equality report presented by the European commission, the female employment rate has increased in the past few years (by 58.3% to 72.5% of men). However, they still work more hours than men (by 31.2% to 7.7%) and women succeed in sectors with lower salaries. Turning our attentions back to Spain, the labour force survey of the INE (Spanish national statistics institute) revealed that in the first quarter of 2009 the activity rate was 69.11% for men and 51.51% for women. Despite the 20% difference between the two percentages, when compared to the evolution of unemployment since summer 2008 with what happened in the previous crisis, it shows that it is the first time that the loss of male employment is higher than that of women. The same trend can be seen in other European countries, especially in the United Kingdom.

The same trend can be seen in other European countries, especially in the United Kingdom.

What else can be done to improve the situation? According to the 2008-2009 United Nations development fund for women report, governments are responsible for ensuring a market that responds to the interests of social welfare and gender equality. Neither women’s activism nor the self-regulation of companies will achieve these results. In protecting its commitments around human rights for woman, governments are responsible for implementing controls regarding its effect on market institutions.